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Renewable Energy Vision
Expert analysis on the most pressing issues facing the renewable energy sector in the U.S and abroad from ACORE staff, members and supporters.

Big “Trick” on Tesla from the Washington Times

Published on 31 Oct 2013  |   Written by    |  

Safety is arguably the most important thing when you are driving on the road. So it wouldn’t be a surprise that safety-conscious drivers would want their car to a have top crash-score rating – preferably a 5-star safety rating. And you surely do not want your car to simultaneously burst into flames, unless you are a Boston Red Sox fan rioting after your team wins the World Series. But a recent editorial from the Washington Times pointing to a Tesla Model S fire on October 3rd makes it seem that Tesla drivers -- or drivers of any type of electric vehicle (EV) are taking huge risks, driving dangerous, killing machines.

The Washington Times editorial piece claims that fires in EVs are a systemic problem of EV technology. But the numbers and science show this is clearly not the case. In fact, electric vehicles are about five times less likely to catch fire than combustion engines according to Mathewson Electric. And when you directly compare gas- powered cars to the Tesla Model S, the ratio of fires to vehicles only widens. As Jeff Dahn points out, “There were 187,000 vehicle fires in the United States in 2011. That’s one fire for every 1,738 cars on the road. With Tesla this fire makes [it] one out of almost 20,000. That’s 10X less frequent.”

If the Washington Times truly cared about passenger safety, they would note that combustion engines have about five times more combustion energy than electric vehicles. They would also understand that this particular fire was caused by a metal object striking the armor plate of the Model S at “a peak force on the order of 25 tons." If the same thing happened to a gasoline powered vehicle, the car would have fully burnt to the ground. But due to the Model S’ safety standards, the fire was contained to the engine and did not enter into the passenger compartment of the vehicle.

“It is also important to emphasize that this is the first Model S fire after being on sale for a year,” Drive Electric Ohio points out, “with 13,000 [Model S] delivered that have driven a collective 83 million miles.”

It’s tough to understand, beyond political reasons, why the Washington Times penned an editorial attempting to condemn the Model S just months after Consumer Reports gave its best review ever to the Model S, and on the day that Consumer Reports awarded the Model S the “Recommended” status. After all, when it comes to safety, it’s pretty clear; it’s tough to beat the Model S’ impeccable 5-star safety rating.

Oh, and by the way, electric car sales are up 400% since this time last year.

For further reading:

The Tesla Model S Is So Safe It Broke the Crash-Testing Gear (Wired)
Tesla: Our crash test score is better than perfect (CNN Money)
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The American Council On Renewable Energy

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